Jessica Gonzales v. United States: Blog Resource and Film Announcement

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Filmmakers April Hayes and Katia Maguire are in the process of producing Jessica Gonzales v. United States, a documentary about one woman’s legal battle on behalf of domestic violence survivors.  Here is the producers’ description of the film:

In 1999, Jessica Gonzales’ estranged husband Simon abducted their three young daughters in violation of a court-imposed domestic violence restraining order. Jessica called the police repeatedly over the course of the night, begging the officers on duty to find her girls and bring them home safely, but they ignored and refused her pleas for help.

In the early hours of the next morning, Simon pulled up to the police station, got out of his truck, and started firing at the police station with a gun he had purchased earlier that night. The police came out of the station and shot him dead. When they looked into the back of the now bullet-ridden vehicle—the same truck that Jessica had been reporting to them all night—they found the dead bodies of Rebecca (10), Katheryn (8), and Leslie (7).

Jessica embarks upon a groundbreaking legal journey, suing the town of Castle Rock, Colorado, for non-enforcement of her restraining order, and pursues her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, in hopes of strengthening the legal rights of the millions of women and children who depend on domestic violence restraining orders to protect them. Yet when the Supreme Court rules that she and other Americans have no Constitutional right to enforcement of their protective orders, Jessica presses on, becoming the first domestic violence victim to sue the U.S. government in an international human rights tribunal.

Yet even as this quest transforms Jessica into the figurehead of an international movement, she and her family face an ongoing struggle to come to terms with their immense tragedy and loss.

JESSICA GONZALES VS. THE UNITED STATES is currently in production. The film is the 2010 recipient of the Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant and has received support from the Independent Television Service. The documentary is part of the Women Make Movies Production Assistance Program and participated in the 2009 Independent Film Week: Spotlight on Documentaries and the 2009 National Association for Latino Producers’ Latino Producers Academy.

Here’s a film clip:

For more information about the case and the film project, see the film’s website here.

Professor Carrie Bettinger-Lopez and her clinic students at the University of Miami School of Law were instrumental in achieving a positive legal result in the case.  See prior FLP blog coverage here.

-Bridget Crawford

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